Amazon Underground: How to get free Android apps
No, don’t adjust your set, I’m not going crazy and this isn’t some weird ponzi scheme. These are 100% free apps, with free in-app purchases, so you don’t pay a single penny to access the full-fat paid-for app.
Known as Amazon Underground, this free app initiative is a valliant effort to crack into the app space that Google‘s Play Store and Apple‘s App Store dominate so easily. Underground was new, different and promised to shake up how apps work; but what exactly is Amazon Underground, and how can you get it?
Going Amazon Underground
Released as a separate app to the Amazon App Store, essentially replacing the standard Amazon Shopping app, Underground is an app store with a difference: everything is free. Yes, everything – it’s completely and utterly free.
That sounds like madness, I know, but Amazon is using Underground to offer up over £1,000-worth of apps, games and in-app purchases (IAPs) completely free of charge. This means you can enjoy a wide selection of games without having to pay a penny, or worry that you’ll be hit with a paywall partway through play.
Initially, Amazon pitched Underground as a semi-uprising against free-to-play game mechanics, calling out developers for including costly IAPs. It’s so adamant about its campaign that it uses every opportunity to let you know it’s giving you apps and games for nothing.
“Many apps and games that are marked as “free” turn out not to be completely free,” reads a letter designed like a secret telegram on the Amazon Underground website. “They use in-app payments to charge you for special items or to unlock features or levels. In Underground, you will find 100% free versions of popular premium titles…”
The appeal of Amazon Underground to consumers is obvious: great premium apps for diddly-squat, alongside some excellent free-to-play titles, without the chokehold of IAPs. What’s less clear is how Amazon is actually planning to fund this new venture – which it claims “is a long-term program rather than a one-off promotion”. Amazon has promised developers they’ll be paid 0.13p per minute played in their app. While that’s not the greatest money around, it might actually work out better for some bigger app developers who see a drop off on IAP spending compared to an apps total number of users.
When those users start browsing Amazon Underground, Amazon has made it incredibly easy to see that everything is free. Almost everything is labelled with “Actually Free”, for example charts are titled “Actually Free Kids Games” and all of the banner ads contain “#ActuallyFree” somewhere on them. These screen-dominating banners will be turned into general advertising, helping to generate money to pump back into the service to keep it going.
Not that Amazon doesn’t have the deep pockets to pay developers included in the service, but it’s worth asking why it wants, or feels, the need to. A clue to Amazon’s motives can be found in the second paragraph of the aforementioned online letter.
“Normally you’d go to Google Play to download an Android app onto your phone,” it reads. “But Google’s rules don’t allow an app that offers apps or games to be included in Google Play.”
While that particular sentence is clearly referencing the fact the Amazon Appstore app is banned from Google Play, its wording suggests a deeper distaste towards the platform. Perhaps Underground is Amazon’s way to lure people from Play and have them use its own app store instead?